There is nothing which has a more abiding influence on the happiness of a family than the preservation of equable and cheerful temper and tones in the housekeeper. A woman who is habitually gentle, sympathizing, forbearing, and cheerful, carries an atmosphere about her which imparts a soothing and sustaining influence, and renders it easier for all to do right, under her administration, than in any other situation.
The writer has known families where the mother's presence seemed the sunshine of the circle around her - imparting a cheering and vivifying power, scarcely realized till it was withdrawn. Every one, without thinking of it, or knowing why it was so, experienced a peaceful and invigorating influence as soon as he entered the sphere illumined by her smile and sustained by her cheering kindness and sympathy. On the contrary, many a good housekeeper, (good in every respect but this,) by wearing a countenance of anxiety and dissatisfaction, and by indulging in the frequent use of sharp and reprehensive tones, more than destroys all the comfort which otherwise would result from her system, neatness, and economy.
There is a secret, social sympathy which every mind, to a greater or less degree, experiences with the feelings of those around, as they are manifested by the countenance and voice. A sorrowful, a discontented, or an angry countenance produces a silent, sympathetic influence, imparting a sombre shade to the mind, while tones of anger or complaint still more effectually jar the spirits.
No person can maintain a quiet and cheerful frame of mind While tones of discontent and displeasure are sounding on the ear. We may gradually accustom ourselves to the evil till it is partially diminished; but it always is an evil which greatly interferes with the enjoyment of the family state. There are sometimes cases where the entrance of the mistress of a family seems to awaken a slight apprehension in every mind around, as if each felt in danger of a reproof, for something either perpetrated or neglected. A woman who should go around her house with a small stinging snapper, which she habitually applied to those whom she met, would be encountered with feelings very much like those which are experienced by the inmates of a family where the mistress often uses her countenance and voice to inflict similar penalties for duties neglected.
Yet there are many allowances to be made for housekeepers who sometimes imperceptibly and unconsciously fall into such habits. A woman who attempts to carry out any plans of system, order, and economy, and who has her feelings and habits conformed to certain rules, is constantly liable to have her plans crossed, and her taste violated, by the inexperience or inattention of those about her. And no housekeeper, whatever may be her habits, can escape the frequent recurrence of negligence or mistake which interferes with her plans.
It is probable that there is no class of persons in the world who have such incessant trials of temper, and temptations to be fretful, as American housekeepers; for a housekeeper's business is not, like that of the other sex, limited to a particular department, for which previous preparation is made. It consists of ten thousand little disconnected items, which can never be so-systematically arranged that there is no daily jostling somewhere. And in the best-regulated families it is not uufrequently the case that some act of for-getfulness or carelessness from some member will disarrange the business of the whole day, so that every hour will bring renewed occasion for annoyance. And the more strongly a woman realizes the value of time, and the importance of system and order, the more will she be tempted to irritability and complaint.
The following considerations may aid in preparing a woman to meet such daily crosses with even a cheerful temper and tones.
In the first place, a woman who has charge of a large household should regard her duties as dignified, important, and difficult. The mind is so made as to be elevated and cheered by a sense of far-reaching influence and usefulness. A woman who feels that she is a cipher, and that it makes little difference how she performs her duties, has far less to sustain and invigorate her than one who truly estimates the importance of her station. A man who feels that the destinies of a nation are turning on the judgment and skill with which he plans and executes, has a pressure of motive and an elevation of feeling which are great safeguards against all that is low, trivial, and degrading.
So, an American mother and housekeeper who rightly estimates the long train of influence which will pass down to thousands whose destinies, from generation to generation, will be modified by those decisions of her will which regulate the temper, principles, and habits of her family, must be elevated above petty temptations which would otherwise assail her.
Again, a housekeeper should feel that she really has great difficulties to meet and overcome. A person who wrongly thinks there is little danger, can never maintain so faithful a guard as one who rightly estimates the temptations which beset her. Nor can one who thinks that they are trifling difficulties which she has to encounter, and trivial temptations to which she must yield, so much enjoy the just reward of conscious virtue and self-control as one who takes an opposite view of the subject.
A third method is, for a woman deliberately to calculate on having her best-arranged plans interfered with very often, and to be in such a state of preparation that the evil will not come unawares. So complicated are the pursuits, and so diverse the habits of the various members of a family, that it is almost impossible for every one to avoid interfering with the plans and taste of a housekeeper in some one point or another. It is, therefore, most wise for a woman to keep the loins of her mind ever girt, to meet such collisions with a cheerful and quiet spirit.